Human rights defender of the month: Svetlana Lukic

February 28, 2012

For 2012 Civil Rights Defenders, a NGO based in Stockholm, has started an interesting campaign: the Human Rights Defenders of the Month. Amnesty International has long done this for the ‘prisoner of the month’ and we should welcome the effort to focus similarly on HRDs. Whether the organisation will manage to keep a good international spread in view its current strong emphasis on Eastern Europe (understandable as it is the successor of the Helsinki committee) is another matter. The case of Svetlana Lukic is certainly a very deserving one which reminds me of the work done by Natasha Kandic, the 1999 MEA laureate.

During the Balkan wars in the 1990s the Serbian journalist Svetlana Lukic was suspended twice from her post at Radio Belgrade because of the way she chose to report. Even after the fall of Milosevic’s regime in year 2000, the pressure continued. Today most media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. One exception is the radio program Pescanik (in English: The Hourglass), which has gone from 100.000 listeners per week to 475.000 in the past five years. The Pescanik web portal has around 7.000 visitors a day. Several media houses, among them the national Public Broadcasting Service, have described Pescanik as ‘anti-Serbian’ or ‘treacherous’; an opinion also shared by right wing and fascist groups.

“Whenever I feel afraid for my safety, I am ashamed because I remember all those people I saw during the wars in the 90s who suffered and had real reasons to be afraid. Some of them are not alive any more.”

Ten years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, Serbia is still dealing with the political, economic and cultural burden inherited from the conflicts that lasted for more than 10 years in the 1990-s. The country is deeply affected by issues like dealing with the past, the inability to secure continuity in the reform processes, a deep division between pro-European and right wing blocks and a lack of awareness on basic human rights and accountability of duty holders. Governments are ultimately responsible for human rights and democratic reforms. In transitional societies, however, like Serbia, the civil society is the driving force for the observance of human rights. They play a key role by continually monitoring the machinery of power, providing independent information and space for debate, as well as working to ensure that the state and its representatives take responsibility when mistakes are made. The majority of media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. There is a tendency to support policies of the current government uncritically, and to avoid coverage of issues that could politically damage the current holders of political power.

According to Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index for 2011-2012, Serbia is ranked 80 out of 179: “In a new and regular phenomenon since national independence, journalists have been the victims of reprisals for investigating the country’s criminal underworld and its growing influence in political and financial circles.”

For the full story see:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: